In an attempt to combat climate change, Longmont City Council declared a Climate Emergency Resolution on October 8, 2019. Soon after, the Climate Action Task Force was formed to curate recommendations for the city council.
Composed of local experts, city staff members and residents of Longmont, the task force was set to present their findings to the council in mid-April, but the process was derailed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, the task force is in the last stages of finalizing their proposal for a more sustainable Longmont.
“It’s imperative because it’s imperative and because our institutions are not reacting the way they should,” said City Council Liaison to the Task Force Marcia Martin. “It’s become obvious in the last two years that we are at a tipping point, not nearing a tipping point, and the longer we wait to take substantive actions, the harder it becomes to have an effect.”
Martin and the force will now present their recommendations to the city council on June 30 and July 7; these dates are tentative, however, pending pandemic considerations. The group had completed six of their eight planned meetings before their work shifted to completely virtual.
With just over a month until their new proposal deadline, they have drafted proposals for sustainable building energy use, transportation and renewable energy. Nearing draft completion are plans for adaptation/resilience, land use and waste management and education and outreach.
Working alongside the task force has been the Just Transition Plan Committee (JTPC), who has been seeking a 100 percent renewable energy plan for Longmont. The JTPC was actually organized prior to the Climate Emergency Resolution and has supported the task force with draft recommendations and equitable climate action plans.
In addition, the task force has also worked with stakeholder groups and community members to gauge their opinion. Community engagement is a top priority for the task force and not many are more engaged than Karen Dike. Among her other affiliations, Dike is a secretary for Sustainable Resilient Longmont and a member of the Sierra Club. Dike urges the city to take climate change seriously.
“We really wanted them (city council) to act like it was an emergency,” Dike said. “It’s been a really long process and as it happens with this type of thing, it’s easily bogged down in a lot of minutiae.”
Dike hopes the Climate Emergency Resolution can help both individuals and industries make more sustainable decisions. There is still much to accomplish according to Dike, but after experiencing the coronavirus crisis, she believes preparation will be even more important with climate change.
Working with Dike is Abby Driscoll, who is the Head Chair at Sustainable Resilient Longmont. Driscoll concurs with Dike on how COVID-19 has taught our community the importance of preparation for future emergencies, as climate change expects to be.
“This is something we have to prioritize in our community and have to put effort into,” Driscoll said. “We can’t let it fall by the wayside and we have to start preparing now. COVID has shown us that. What are the ways we can prepare for something like this? So that if and when something like climate change comes down our road, how are we going to be prepared?”
Over the course of the pandemic, it has been reported that global emissions have dropped 17% (https://www.livescience.com/carbon-dioxide-reduction-coronavirus-lockdown.html). Although that may be true, Dike and Driscoll note that Longmont’s air quality continues to be poor in large part due to nearby fracking. Climate Action Task Force Sustainability Manager Lisa Knoblauch believes it’s too early to assess the pandemic’s environmental effect on Longmont.
“There are many factors involved in how this period of time may be impacting the environment, which can vary greatly depending on location,” Knoblauch said. “It will be a while before we have conclusive, localized data on what the extent of those impacts is. Before having that information, I don’t think it’s possible to speak about how that strengthens or lessens the need for a climate emergency.”
While there’s still work to be done, the task force has made considerable progress despite unfavorable circumstances. If all goes according to plan, Longmont’s Emergency Climate Resolution could have major effects on our city.